September 17, 2016 by John Wilcock
The paper’s (LA Times) unbelievable short-sightedness about eschewing columns (except for one-subject essays) applies here, too. Comb through any issue of Publisher’s Weekly or London’s just-folded Publishing News and you could come across at least a score of items that any astute reporter could mould into an irresistible 600-word read. Anyway they dropped the Book Review, slotting a review or three onto other pages.
In an editorial the Times wrote that its collective editorial opinions, “written after debate and disagreement…. that seek intellectual honesty and consistency” were a rare voice in today’s national culture and politics. “They are the product of a Socratic enterprise, guided by the idea that debate produces wisdom”.
They’re invariably the best thing in the paper.
There are many times when we might think of the Times as the Daily Donald, so speckled it is with hideous ads by the lawyer, real estate magnate, NBA (Clippers) owner and self-described “humanitarian” Donald T. Sterling, who must be the biggest ego in the West. And that’s some achievement in the land of the movies.
In addition to full page ads for his properties for sale and rent, the Daily Donald loves to run huge color pictures of himself flanked by satellite photos of minor local celebrities, all extolling some charity to which he has presumably donated and on whose board he is usually chairman. Sometimes there are two or three different ones in the same paper, but all are dominated by his picture. Heaven only knows how much money is spent on these ads, hundreds of thousands of dollars that might otherwise have enriched the charities. Or helped the have-nots in his so-far-fictitious homeless shelter. But then, of course, people wouldn’t have known about the generosity of Daily Donald.
Of course, all my comments are a mere pinprick, because I’ll be judged unworthy of criticizing such an established and respected giant of journalism. The Times is indubitably one of country’s best papers—partly because so few others devote such thorough coverage to national and international affairs. Its Column One essay is on a par with the Wall Street Journal’s, the industry touchstone.
INSIDE THE PAPER, chaos often reigned, the feuds sometimes jumping to the outside world. Long-time columnist Al Martinez, victim of one set of cuts, promptly starting blogging. He called the man who fired him from the paper “a graceless little man… an anomaly on a staff of otherwise good, qualified people”.
But that’s mild compared with some of the other comments tossed around about his nemesis, John Montorio, a former LATimes m/e who was subsequently himself fired, a decision greeted with joy by Montorio’s former colleagues. They accused him of “ruling with arrogance, secretiveness and closed-door clubbiness” adding that he had a “toxic personality” and was “loathed”. They called him “deceitful, anarchistic, and charming like a snake”.
Martinez had his column restored by Montorio’s successor, Russ Stanton, a 14-year veteran, who took over as new editor from what he termed “a Groundhog-Day nightmare”.
“Some of Mr. Stanton’s colleagues have taken the extraordinary step of going to Mr. Hiller to ask him not to choose (Russ) Stanton as editor” wrote the NYT’s Richard Pérez-Pëna. “Reporters and editors have said that Mr. Stanton does not have the stature or broad experience to run one of the nation’s most important newspapers… but he is well-liked”. He has been credited, as innovations editor, with improving the paper’s website.
After three editors in three years, when the job had again become vacant m/e John M. Arthur, 60, a Times veteran of 20 years, wanted the job, but he lost out to Stanton. I hopefully requested that Arthur give this book a mention and when he e-mailed to ask why, responded that entire chapters, thousands of words had been devoted to Southern California. I received no other reply to my entreaties for a par, nay a word, a line, informing readers of my book. I had become the invisible man.
I studied Arthur’s picture (left) and pondered long on the awe and majesty of his being. I imagined him sitting on his gilded newsroom throne, saying little while imperiously indicating, with up or down turned thumb, the fate of the poor wretches who sought his benison. With him lay the power of simple recognition or permanent banishment from the kingdom.
So there I was, an irrelevant speck on the paper’s world view. Sadly in these penurious times it is vital to a writer’s future, and his chance of being published, that he get some endorsement in print. Alas, it was not to be. Maybe if I had changed my name to Donald?
Circulation has been dropping so precipitously that the Times now offers one-year subscriptions (Thursday thru Sunday) for $39, including one of half dozen Conde Nast magazines. Hard to see how that could be anything but a money-loser.
“Analysts have warned in recent years that by offering steadily less in print, newspapers were inviting their readers to stop buying”, commented Pérez-Pëna.
In 2008, the Village Voice began re-running some of my 50-year-old columns in their weekly blog along with a note listing my website. It was of no benefit to me, of course, especially as I never received any comment from readers, but it did remind me that I had written more than half a million words for the paper during its first ten years, being paid little more than $1,000 a year. Roughly speaking then, at a rate of one or two cents a word.
As the inequity of this blog thing dawned on me, I wrote to editor Tony Ortega suggesting that it seemed a little exploitative that they were re-using this work at the same time as refusing to mention my book (this one) in their paper. It wasn’t money, I sought, merely a pointer to readers on where they could read my history of the Sixties which, obviously, included an early history of the Voice itself.
After ten and a half years I had quit the paper in 1965 to help Walter Bowart start the East Village Other, a decision greeted by Ed Fancher with the announcement that I would have to leave the Voice if I wanted to write for EVO. The paper never forgave me for my choice and continually over the years vilified me for having the temerity to claim that I had been one of the founders. although how else one might describe somebody who helped carry in the furniture, acted as news editor and was bylined on the front page of the first issue it’s hard to say.
Over and over again I was expunged from the historical record. When Norman Mailer wrote his history of the paper he deliberately mentioned everybody but me. When Geoffrey Stokes ran a collection of Voice pieces he didn’t either mention me or use a single one of the 520 columns and scores of other pieces I had written for the paper. It was obvious that fatwah had been declared on my name. When, a few years later, the Voice was sold, Fancher and Dan Wolf shared $7million.
Manhattan Memories is available at amazon.com.
An updated A Guide to Occult Britain, complete with new illustrations, is also available at amazon.com.
comments? send an email to John Wilcock
Now Available in Print!!
Don't let a real-life comic strip sneak by unnoticed. This one's too unusual (and brilliant) for that!
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National Weed (1974, issue #3)
Forty years ago the second of my three books about magic was published, A Guide to Occult Britain (Sidgwick & Jackson) covering a wide range of sites from Stonehenge to Loch Ness and King Arthur country to the witches of Pendle Hill. It is now available as an eBook
Over the past year, my combined medical and support costs from a stroke I had in April 2014 have been more than $100,000. If you'd like to help, use the Paypal donate button, or better yet, buy my books, and thank you. —JW
Now on Boing-Boing!
An authorized comic book biography of John Wilcock,
This IS a book-length comic series on John Wilcock. People who enjoy focusing on underground and alternative media are occasionally familiar with John's work, but most often the response is "who's that?" Outside of small press historians and collectors, John remains very unknown. Which makes no sense, the more you learn about him. We're very excited about the opportunity to tell his story. Art for THE STORY OF JOHN WILCOCK is by me and co-conspirator Scott Marshall. Story comes from an extended and ongoing year-long interview with Wilcock, himself. The focus is John's years in New York, roughly 1954-1971.
January 2, 2011
A way with Andy Warhol : John Wilcock recalls life in iconic pop artist's inner circle
During a journalism career that began when he was 16, John Wilcock has interviewed celebrities — Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Bob Dylan, to name a few — was part of enigmatic pop artist Andy Warhol's intimate circle in the 1960s, traveled to exotic locations all over the globe, has written dozens of books ranging from frugal travel to magic, was one of five founders (Norman Mailer was one of them) of the Village Voice and co-founded Interview magazine (still in circulation) with Mr. Warhol.
“The Return of the World's Worst Businessman”
John Wilcock is not what you would call a household name, and yet, he has had a measurable impact on art, journalism and culture-at-large over the last century. He co-founded Interview with Andy Warhol. He also was one of the co-founders of The Village Voice. He has written for countless print and online publications: Frommer’s, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, The East Village Other, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Ojai Orange, etc. So why, one feels inclined to ask, is he relatively unknown? The answer seems simple: Wilcock has called himself “the world’s worst businessman.” This self-description makes sense because listening to him one hears the voice of a writer and a traveler and an enthusiast, not at all the voice of a businessman. In an age when it seems like everyone is all about business—art as a business, fashion as a business, everything as a business—it is refreshing to hear someone self-identify as “the world’s worst businessman.” It seems less like he has failed as a businessman and more like he has refused to become one. In addition to all his other accomplishments,...
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Jewcy Top 10 Art Books of 2010
This brilliant remake of a pop primary document is brought to you by John Wilcock, probably the Most Interesting Man in the World in the realm of writers. The Village Voice cofounder had also edited Warhol’s seminal mag Interview in the 70s. The fruit of the book is in the genius of its redesign. After 40 years out-of-print, the newly edited edition is “beautifully redesigned in a bright, Warholian palette” that surrounds a trail of Harry Shunk’s internationally Pop-art-informed camera as well as transcribed interviews with those closest to Warhol that ultimately make up an oral history of the artist’s Factory period. By looking at him through the scope of his peers, this book is the equivalent of Pittsburgh’s Warhol Museum in illuminating qualities of Warhol’s warped mirror on which our American culture was briefly reflected.
Monday, November 15, 2010
A Reader Comment from the recent New York Times Frugal Traveler post
Not only did John Wilcock shake up staid publishing in the USA, from the Village Voice to the East Village Other, his influence extended to several continents, including Australia & the UK, where - in his mild mannered way - he pushed the boundaries of image and speech. The counter culture was nothing but a dull puddle, until John kicked out the jams and ignited the Underground Press, which attracted absurd prosecutions, that of course boosted circulations. An unsung hero of the sixties,
It was the first handwritten letter I’d received in 5 years. Or maybe 10. Signed by John Wilcock, a man I’d never heard of, and postmarked Ojai, Calif., it was waiting for me when I returned from my Săo Paulo-to-New York summer trip. Mr. Wilcock wrote that he had been an assistant editor at The Times Travel section back in the 1950s, and had written the first editions of “Mexico on $5 a Day,” “Greece on $5 a Day” and “Japan on $5 a Day” for Arthur Frommer in the 1960s.
By George, I thought. This man was the original Frugal Traveler.
“A GOOD WAY to describe John Wilcock is to say that he is a talented bohemian counter-culture journalist who once played a major role in the emergence of America’s underground press. Born 1927 in Sheffield, England, he left school aged 16 to work on various newspapers in England, and on Toronto periodicals before moving to New York City. There in 1955 he became one of the five founders of the Village Voice in which he and co-founder Norman Mailer wrote weekly columns. Wilcock called his column “The Village Square”, an intended pun. He and young Mailer were not quite friends, although Wilcock was at times annoyed, but always amused, by Mailer’s monstrous ego.”